It was the summer in between my junior and senior year in college. I was back at home volunteering at my parish’s vacation bible school. I was the designated photographer hoping to get some good shots for my portfolio due at the end of my summer photography course. It was during a break when I found myself stting at a table of volunteers, mostly moms, sorting papers and stuffing bags for the next day.
“So, what’s it like at Baylor?”
I answered questions like that all the time. People were mostly curious to hear what it was like to be Catholic at the largest baptist university in the world. People would often wonder if I was ridiculed, challenged or ignored because of my faith.
To be honest, it was a blessing. I had an opportunity to discover what my faith meant to me personal as it became my own responsibility, not that of my parents. I had an opportunity to enter into dialogue with students and teachers of other denominations. I can’t recall the number of times I explained Catholic’s devotion to Mary, the saints and praying the rosary.
I couldn’t have done it without St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center. I found some of my best friends there and was able to be a part of a ministry that served the Catholic population at Baylor (which is about 20% of the entire student body). I believe that the student center had a clear impact by serving as a place where my friends and I could discover and strengthen our faith.
Another conversation I remember quite clearly about my college experience took place a dinner for ministrly leaders at my home parish that same summer. I found myself at a table with other parents who ended up talking about how it was common for college students to stray away from their Catholic faith.
One woman, who happened to be the high school youth director, turned to me as asked, “Why are you Catholic in college?”
I replied that it was just something that I did. Growing up I went to church every Sunday, sang in the church choir, participated in youth group and the high school church softball league.
“I’m sure that’s part of it, but really, why are you Catholic?” She replied, obvoiusly not satisfied with the answer that I had already given.
I had known the answer all along. Even though it was something that I just did, being Catholic was deeply a part of who I was, I couldn’t imagine leaving that behind just because I was on my own college. I couldn’t just decide that one day I wasn’t going to be a woman of faith, that I would choose to sleep in and ignore the opportunity to be in communion with Him by not attending Mass.
But college only lasts for four years (or more than that, like me) and it comes time to graduate. It’s a new beginning for me, leaving behind the student center and finding my place in the “real adult” world, finding a faith community that fits for me and continuously striving to remain strong and centered in my Catholic faith.
(photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net)